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Wednesday August 13, 2008Milton-Jones and Team USA Roll Past Mali in Olympic Basketball Action



Former Gator DeLisha Milton-Jones and the 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Team (3-0) needed just 10 minutes to build a double-digit lead and went on to secure a 97-41 win against overmatched Mali (0-3) Wednesday night at Wukesong Arena in Beijing, China.


The USA offense was clicking on all cylinders, and the red, white and blue shot 62.0 percent overall (41-66 FGs), 43.0 percent from behind the arc (6-14 3pt FGs) and tallied 29 assists, including seven dimes from Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs). Defensively, the Americans forced 29 turnovers and held Mali to just 25.0 percent shooting (14-56 FGs). Milton-Jones played 10 minutes during the one-sided affair, as all 12 members hit double-figure minutes.


Next up for the American women is Spain (2-1) on Aug. 15 at 8 a.m. EDT, which will be televised live on USA and USA HD.


Following Friday's game against Spain, the USA women close preliminary round play against New Zealand at 10:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. EDT, live on NBC and NBC HD) on Aug. 17. The women's quarterfinals will be contested Aug. 19, the semifinals on Aug. 21 and the gold and bronze medal games will be played on Aug. 23.


In Wednesday's other preliminary play, Group A saw Russia (3-0) top Belarus (1-2) 71-65 with Maria Stepanova recording a team-high 13 points; Latvia (1-2) survived Brazil (0-3) 79-78 thanks to 25 points from Anete Jekabsone-Zogota; and 18 points from Penny Taylor and Suzy Batkovic helped Australia (3-0) easily beat South Korea (1-2) 90-63.


In Group B, Spain (2-1), spurred on by 20 points from Anna Montaņana, downed Czech Republic (1-2) 74-55; and China (2-1) beat New Zealand (1-2) 80-63 with Nan Chen recording 26 points.


"We were able to work on several things defensively that we haven't had a chance to in our first two games," said USA head coach Anne Donovan. "We continue to stress our defense and really working hard on that end of the floor. Once again, forcing the number of turnovers that we do makes us happy as a team. So (it was a) good win for us, and we're thinking about Spain from this point forward."


Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), who scored a game-high 16 points, set a U.S. Olympic single-game record on 7-of-7 shooting from the field, surpassing 2008 teammate Katie Smith (Detroit Shock), who shot 6-of-6 from the field in 2000, and Nikki McCray, who shot 6-of-6 in 1996. Leslie also equaled the U.S. mark for blocked shots in a game with three, a total accomplished by four other U.S. athletes as well as Leslie in 2004.


"Records are made to be broken," Leslie said. "It was good. We just wanted to get the win. We wanted to come out and perform well and not have a drop off. It was a little tough for us, but I thought we really pulled together and again, hung our hats on our defense. Defense and rebounding is key, and that's what really I try to focus on."


Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) added 12 points and three assists to the U.S. effort; and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) each scored 10 points.


The USA jumped to a 7-0 lead before Mali heaved a 3-pointer to put its first points on the board at 7:37. Mali's Aminata Sininta, who led her team with 13 points, then scored five quick points to give her team an 8-7 lead and prompt a U.S. timeout at 5:34.


Following the break, the U.S. responded with a 17-4 run that included points from seven different scorers, and the game's outcome was never again in doubt. Leslie scored six of her eventual 16 points in the first 10 minutes to help the USA take 24-12 lead after the first period.


The 12-point lead quickly ballooned to 20 as the Americans again compiled a scoring streak, this time an 8-0 spurt to start the second period that included six points from Parker and brought the score to 32-12 at 8:15. As the U.S. offense continued on cruise control, Mali sank three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to prevent the U.S. lead from growing larger than 23 points at the halftime break, and the scoreboard read 51-28 as the USA headed to the locker room.


"We're building for the medal round, so we definitely want to stay on top of our game," Thompson said. "Mali is a very athletic team, but kind of inexperienced with competition of this magnitude. We wanted to come out and just be ourselves. We got a slow start but we continued to get better as time passed."


The USA defense starred in the third period, limited Mali to just five points on two made baskets while the American offense tallied 25, and the score was 76-33 headed into the final stanza. The fourth period was more of the same as the USA outscored Mali 21-8 to reach the game's final of 97-41.


The defending Olympic champs, the USA women in fact will be vying for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold. Since women's basketball was officially staged at the 1976 Olympics, the Americans have collected a record five gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal, and now owns a 45-3 (.938) overall record in eight Olympic appearances (the United States chose not to participate in the 1980 Olympic Games).


Game release courtesy of USA Basketball



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